Archive | emotional support RSS feed for this section

Sanity Breaks: Part 2

2 Dec

imageA while ago I created a post about the importance of taking what I affectionately call “Sanity Breaks.” I went on to talk about how magically delicious they were and how important it was to fit them into ones life. Like most people, I forgot to take my own advice. LOL : ]). As time went on, I got away from my healthy routine and fell into a super stressed, super anxious state. Everything was overwhelming … work, classes, my personal life. While I began not long ago to take steps to remedy these concerns, I also got the itch to “escape” … to just get away and disappear from the world with no distractions or responsibilities. Sometimes this is easier said than done. With the prompting of a close friend and a few coins I’d been saving up, I randomly booked a flight to the U.S Virgin Islands. I told a few family members and friends, then, just as suddenly, I left crazy Manhattan life and a sudden 20 degree cold weather snap behind.

As impromptu as this trip was, it was exactly what the faux doctor in my mind ordered. I went only for the weekend, but pulling the escape hatch on life was just what I needed. I went with no plans, expectations, to do list, morning alarms, or schedules. I just soaked up to some sun, ate delicious “home foods,” woke up according to my internal body clock, caught up with family from the island (St. Thomas), then on my last day, sat on the beach with my notebook and reflected. I was living a completely un-regimented life; the free-spirited hippie that lives inside me was overjoyed; she’d been stuffed away for a time. At the end of those four days, I felt amazing. It was in one of those moments of reflection that I had my lightbulb epiphany moment and realized, I had just taken the most epic “sanity break” ever! Not only did I get a change of scenery (and the chance to take the great photos included in this post), but I also got a chance to recoup, collect myself, and just recalibrate my mental / emotional state … It felt awesome. In the end, I rekindled my desire to start traveling while finding this long elusive sense of peace that’s been missing for quite a while now. This whole trip reminded me once again, how self-care and mental health check-ins are key to healthy living. The body can’t function on daily tasks if the mental core is frazzled. My take home lesson? Listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs and if it’s calling for a break … Don’t wait for things to fall apart before you act.


In Support of National Denim Day …

24 Apr


… Because there is NO excuse for rape

Oh God, It’s Monday Already??

10 Jun

The impending work-week pressure of “it’s Monday” can be SO overwhelming. What has helped me? Remembering to take it one goal, one task, one moment, one breath at a time. Then? Celebrating any achievement I made that day, no matter how small the victory, and especially on my rough days! Ultimately, realizing that some days might be a set-back is also key to not berating oneself over a seeming loss of emotional progress. We are human … with different biological makeups and different coping strategies. Yes! Some days you will want to scream, panic, pull at your hair, and run out the office door arms flailing towards the nearest cave to hide. In those few moments before you bolt, stop, take a breath, and find your center (what I call a calm mental space free stressors). Believe me, as scattered as your internal compass may feel, a core source of peace lies within you. With a little help / practice from a trained professional, you too can gain the tools to call upon it at will.

Sanity Breaks

8 Jan

Today’s weather was unseasonably warm. Light jacket, no scarf, no hat. Now, while it wasn’t warm enough for me to go frolicking in the streets of NYC wearing a bikini, the 57 degrees in January did feel pretty great! Before running a few errands and jumping  into my Saturday afternoon, I decided to take what I call my daily “sanity break.” Sanity Breaks are what I jokingly refer to as personal time. Let’s face it, life can be so overwhelming and stressful. With all of the academic, professional, personal, and familial responsibilities we juggle in our daily lives, it’s easy to forget a little self-care. In my opinion, these daily sanity breaks have been key to helping me maintain a healthy mind and body.

The term “psychosomatic” is a term used in psychology to refer to a cognitive theory which in short states: as the mind goes, so does the body. When the mind becomes frazzled and overly stressed, the body will begin to physically manifest these feelings as well. Headaches, body tension, jittery muscles, even stomach nausea can be the body’s way of saying you have reached your emotional limit. As a mild preventative, I’ve found that sanity breaks: allow time away, resulting in a clearer perspective on stressful situations, create space for the calming and re-centering of emotions, and provide opportunities to complete enjoyable tasks which always mean to get done, but are often postponed for things deemed “more important.” Coupled with brief meditations and deliberate deep breathing, sanity breaks have truly helped to keep me, well, SANE! .. LOL :]).

Generally, there is no one way to spend your personal / sanity break time. However, for it to work effectively, you must completely remove yourself (mentally and physically) from any and all stressors. That means no multitasking during lunch hours. No checking or replying to work emails. No wondering about that last item on your “to-do” list. No stressing about what bill to pay or what meal to fix your children for dinner. This self-imposed time-out is all about enjoying you. And no-nonsense about not having enough time to dance in a field of sunflowers for an entire afternoon. I took a quick 15 minutes to enjoy an overly complex Starbucks frappuccino (yes, I’m one of those!) while sitting on a park bench enjoying the breeze. It was glorious and in that little bit of time, I felt rejuvenated and ready to return to the real world to kick some butt! Don’t wait for a near breakdown or some vacation scheduled months out on a calendar to take some much needed selfish time. The relaxation you will feel afterward will be worth it : ])

When was your last “Sanity Break?” .. What sort of things do you enjoy ?

When Silence Becomes Dangerous: 10 Signs to Recognize Child Abuse

11 Dec

In recent weeks, the topic of child abuse and public scandal seem to have taken over the media. Stories are being repeated almost daily of children placed in the hands of trusted adults, only to later be victimized. Child Abuse. A crime associated with waves of internalized blame, shame, isolation, and anger. A dangerous, unhealthy game of silence often played by three key players: the victim, the perpetrator, and those on the outside who often suspect something is amiss.

The following are 10 signs to help recognize child abuse:

1) Unexplained injuries: Visible signs of physical abuse may include bruises or burns in the shape of objects. These injuries are often accompanied by unconvincing explanations.

2) Changes in behavior: An abused child may suddenly appear scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn, or overly aggressive.

3) Age-Inappropriate behaviors: An abused older child may begin bed-wetting, thumb-sucking, or develop a fear of the dark, especially after having once mastering these tasks.

4) Fear of Going Home: A child may express either a fear of going home or a fear of going places with the abuser.

5) Changes in Eating: The stress, fear, and anxiety of  being abuse can change eating behaviors and cause weight loss or gain.

6) Changes in Sleeping: Frequent nightmares or constant fatigue is often present.

7) Changes in School Performance / Attendance: Difficulty concentrating (performance) or excessive absences (attendance) may be due to adults attempting to hide injuries.

8 ) Lack of Personal Care or Hygiene: Abused children may appear unclean, uncared for, or wearing clothing unsuitable for the weather.

9) Risk-Taking Behaviors: Adolescents facing abuse may engage in risky behaviors such as taking illegal drug / alcohol or carrying a weapon for protection.

10) Inappropriate Sexual Behaviors: Children who are victims of sexual abuse my exhibit overly sexualized behaviors, language, and/or knowledge.

In all, while no one clue alone may indicate a child in experiencing abuse, multiple clues could be a cause for alarm. Some may be hesitant to report abuse due to a long-standing mistrust of the Child Welfare System. However, in my opinion, reporting child abuse is like the New York City MTA transportation slogan: “If you see something, say something.”  At worst, you report anonymously and are proven wrong. At Best? You potentially save a child’s life.

*Information gathered from Safe Horizon

*Taps Mic* … “Um, Is This Thing On???”

20 Nov

Not long ago, I mentioned that I attended my grad school reunion at Bankstreet not too long ago. At the end of the social hour, we were invited to participate in a live Skype session with world-renowned play therapist Gary Landreth. While I’ll mention the specifics of Mr. Landreth’s discussion in a later post, there was one major point he made that completely struck me. Actually, the comment was moreso a story that was so poignant and meaningful I to share it. Although, I can’t recall the exact wording (ironic right? : ]), I will attempt to give you a gist of the narrative …

I was walking into the store when I passed a man in a wheelchair greeting customers at the entrance. I asked him how his day was going and he replied, ‘It’s not my day, it’s my LIFE. Some days I feel like I just want to die.’ With a sad expression, at the door of this shopping establishment, he began to tell me about his life. I listened. He told stories of his struggles, his pain, his seeming disconnection from the world. When someone came to finally relieve him for a break (about an hour later), he apologized for the long story, then thanked me before he departed. Apparently, I had been the first person to truly listen to him in quite some time. As I walked away, it is then I realized that all around us are people longing to simply be heard. How many are born, live, go through life, but are never truly acknowledged? Never truly knowing if they’ve ever existed? ~Gary Landreth

Tear-jerker right? I admit my eyes watered a bit after that story. I’m sure we can all think of a time where we’ve passed a needy stranger on the street, promised to call back a friend but somehow forgotten, or just may not have been as attuned to those in our surroundings as we could have. So many people are suffering in isolating silence. If only we as a human community were more attentive. The essential message I took away from Mr. Landreth’s story was simply become more mindful. Am I valuing the humanity of each person I meet? Do I give others space to express themselves fully, without interruptions or formulating my response as they speak? Am I willing to enter each encounter with another without preconceived notions? Do I listen to little ones as much as I listen to elders? I won’t say these things are easy feats, but I will say that I plan to make much more of an effort. After all, everyone deserves their moment to exist. A chance to take center stage, grab the microphone, and be listened to. What type of audience will you be?

“Things Fall Apart:” When a Tough Economy, Anxiety, & Medical Stressors Collide

7 Nov

scream blog

For many families, life during these hard economic times can be full of stressful triggers. Putting food on the table, paying the house note, keeping the lights on, getting gas into the car, maintaining your social/love relationships, looking for new work .. all of which can be anxiety provoking. While keeping this scenario in mind, imagine now adding the serious stressor of having a loved one admitted to the hospital or dealing with a new medical illness. It can be enough to literally make you want to pull your hair out! Sadly, this is the reality for many families around the country. If any of this sounds familiar, rest assured that there are resources to help.

1: Sound Mind: Within many hospital settings, there are often well-trained psychologists on staff who are ready and willing to help. They can provide a safe, non-judgmental outlet for you to vent, talk through your fears, address personal challenges, and brainstorm on coping strategies that best fit you. Best of all, these medical psychologists and counseling staff personnel are specially trained to work within the hospital setting to serve those who are affected by the pressures of health concerns. They can offer tools to not only decrease your heightened emotional state, but also ways to promote engaging ill loved ones in a positive way without experiencing what is known as “caregivers fatigue” (when a loved one caring for another becomes physically and emotionally drained).

2: Sound Body: Did you know that many hospitals are now offering spa services? YES! Unbeknownst to many patients and families, a growing number of hospitals around the country are offering holistic services such as: yoga, massage, acupuncture, meditation, dance, and music therapies to name a few. Even beauty enhancement services are becoming increasingly common to address the need of boosting emotional morale. While the primary focus remains treating the illness and ensuring true health, who doesn’t feel better after a nice massage or a few beauty regimes? It reminds families that they are still human and can have a big normalizing effect for everyone who participates.

3: Sound Life: Now that the mind and body have been cared for, what services are available for the other non-medical stressors? With the help of human services, social workers do more than simply help with discharge. They can: work with your doctor and insurance company to ensure care is financially covered as well as make community referrals to assist with securing key needs (such as housing, food, utility support, etc).

In the end, though things may seem bleak, help IS indeed available. Please, if things seem unbearable, reach out to a friend, loved one, doctor, etc … you don’t have to struggle through life’s rough spots alone.

“We’re Here to Help” – Three Medical Professionals You Should Know When Visiting the Hospital

7 Nov

Children and families can enter the medical setting for a number of reasons. These events can be both planned and unplanned. While most are well acquainted with their doctor (primary care physician), in many hospitals, there are additional staff members who can provide individualized services for families in need as well. They are able to answer specific questions, provide or coordinate much-needed resources, and frame medical information in a clear, understandable way. Listed below are three important medical professionals who can be of assistance.

1: Certified Child Life Specialist / Therapist (CCLS): These professionals, are specifically trained in child development and often work to help children and families cope once they enter the medical environment. A CCLS can utilize clinical education or play therapy sessions to explain some of the medical terms often used by other medical professionals in a developmentally appropriate way. Additionally they are able to prepare children for tests or procedures that may be stressful or scary, and even accompany kids into procedural room to provide distraction (with parents permission). Finally, a CCLS, together with the larger
pediatric department, often coordinates fun activities and programming meant to make a hospital stay more enjoyable.

2: Social Worker (SW / LMSW): These professionals are also able to provide clinical counseling sessions for patients in need. Additionally, a social worker can also help coordinate a safe discharge after hospitalization by working with the medical team to ensure specific resources (such as prescriptions, home care, medical equipment, and ongoing emotional support) are
in place within a family’s community when the go home.

3: Patient Advocates: These professionals are able to help families who find themselves in difficult situations and are unsure of their rights while in the hospital. Patient advocates are able to: provide a written version of your particular hospital’s “Patient’s Bill of Rights” and explain its meaning, ensure that all services are provided in your primary language, and even advocate on behalf of a family if they become uncertain of the level of care they are receiving.

Overall, as medical staff, we are here to help as best we can. When in doubt on where to turn, a nearby medical receptionist or clerk can point you in the right direction or alert the appropriate personnel to your needs.